A/N: To get the riddle in this story, one needs a basic understanding of U.S. Coinage. To get thirty U.S. Cents ($.30), there are four ways: thirty pennies (one cent each), six nickels (five cents each), three dimes (ten cents each), or one quarter (twenty-five cents) and one nickel (five cents). With that basic lesson, enjoy!
"I am Holo the Wise Wolf, able to solve any riddle your mind can think of! Do not take me for a fool such as yourself!"
A man of about 5'8" turned his gray eyes to said 'Wise' wolf (who looked nothing more than a fifteen-year-old girl with orange-red hair, crimson eyes, and similarly colored ears and tail) and raised his eyebrows.
"Is that so?" Lawrence asked, ignoring the barb. Despite his intelligence and wit (as a merchant, such things were necessary for his trade), he knew he stood no chance besting the centuries-old deity in a duel of words.
"Yes." Holo sniffed, turning her nose up. The gesture might have been insulting if she didn't sit an entire head shorter than her companion. As it was, the action only made her seem cuter to the male, not that he would ever admit it. The teasing would be unbearable.
"You doubt me?" she asked, opening one eye to look at him.
A wry smile appeared on his face. "No, no. Nothing of the sort."
"Then what is it? My patience wears thin with your mockery of me."
Staring at the wolf-deity with a bland face, Lawrence wondered for the umpteenth time what exactly it was he had done to deserve such a traveling companion.
'Ah, yes.' his mind answered. 'I agreed to take her back to her homeland out of the goodness of my heart.'
"I'm waiting." the current subject-of-thought reminded him, tapping her foot impatiently.
"Well," Lawrence began, rubbing his chin. "I was wondering if you would be willing to make a wager."
"That's what I said."
Holo narrowed her eyes. Generally, if Lawrence was confident enough about doing something, his plans mostly pulled through. Even if he wasn't quite as clever as herself, so a wild hare could out-wit a wolf when it came to survival. Suspicion touched her mind.
"And what would this bet entail?"
"The next town we are to visit is well known for its baking expertise, particularly with cherries. If you were to win this bet, I will buy you all the goods you want for one night. All you have to do is answer the riddle."
"And if I lose?" Alarms were ringing in her head. Along with being a merchant came a certain frugality with money. Something was definitely up.
"I would make a simple request. Nothing objectionable, of course."
Holo stared at the road in front of them, eyes glazed over in thought, head in hand, tail whipping back and forth.
Lawrence glanced at her from the corner of his eye. "If you aren't confident enough, I understand..." he said, a small smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"I am not unconfident!" she hissed, turning a glare at the male. "Fine. I accept your terms. What is the riddle?"
'Hook, line, and sinker.'
"The riddle is this: You have two coins amounting to thirty cents. One of the coins isn't a quarter. How is this possible?"
Holo hummed in thought. "And how long do I have to answer it?"
"Until we get to the city. As an extra bonus, I will let you guess as many times as you want."
The wolf's tail bristled. "I shall only need one guess, for I am Holo the Wise Wolf of Yoits! Make sure your wallet is ready!"
"As you say, oh Wise Wolf."
Each returned to their previous activities, Lawrence guiding the horse pulling the cart, and Holo stroking her tail, mulling in thought.
"You truly are a cruel man, Lawrence." Holo muttered, looking wistfully at the delectables in the market they were passing through.
Said cruel merchant smiled in humble victory.
"I offered to let you stay at the inn. It is no fault of mine that you decided to tag along and torture yourself."
"Nevertheless, asking that I refrain from eating more than half a basket of apples for today's snack is a bit too much. Won't you please reconsider?"
Lawrence made sure not to look at his pouting companion. Even if he had an iron will, the kicked-puppy look she was probably giving him would be his undoing. No man alive could resist her pleas with that expression.
"Fair maiden." Holo's ears flattened under her hood at his teasing tone. "You and I both know if I did, the cost of doing so would very well empty my purse of coins. Besides, what would it say of the Wise Wolf if you couldn't even uphold your end of the bet? Your reputation would not make it through unscathed."
She humphed in annoyance, turning her face away with eyes shut, mouth locked in a frown. Mentally, she cursed the merchant for even mentioning a bet. She especially cursed herself for not figuring out such a simple play on words.
"One of the coins is not a quarter," Lawrence said once they had entered the town. "But the other one is."
To add insult to injury, he then claimed his request was that the wolf-girl not eat any unnecessary food or drink other than half a basket of apples and whatever else he allowed during their stay.
'Like a wild hare, indeed.' Holo thought. Resigning herself to the fate laid out, she sighed and leaned against the source of her predicament, a disgruntled expression taking rest upon her face.
Since she was facing away, the wolf didn't see the mischievous look on the merchant's own face.
After dinner had passed, Lawrence claimed he needed to fetch a few orders he had made. Nodding listlessly, Holo acknowledged his departure. As soon as he had went through the inn's door, she decided to go to bed since there was nothing left to do with her main pastime banned.
Lying on her mattress, she cursed her wolf nature. The allotment of apples she had been given were downed during her time in the market, leaving nothing to snack on now. On top of that, the scents of all manner of delicacies below, from tarts to pastries to alcohols of various natures. Many smelled of cherries, emphasizing her partner's claims of the town. Every passing second, the smells grew stronger and stronger, causing her to become more desperate for the treats and start drooling.
"I hope I am not interrupting something."
Startled, the wolf-deity jumped to the floor, landing in a half-crouch, ears cocked up and tail bristled. Eyes were dilated, fangs bared, and a low growl warned the intruder.
"You know, if I were anybody else, the church would be on our heels within minutes."
Calming instantly, Holo raised to her full height, a vague look of irritation plastered to her face.
"And if they were, I would crush them like your boot does a twig."
"What a pity that would be." Lawrence sighed melodramatically. "Having to get out of the town and all, we would not have the time to eat this cobbler and drink this wine."
Sniffing the air, Holo was almost overcome by the sweet aroma emanating from the merchant. As it was, she was salivating to the point a little stream of drool went down her chin.
"Shall we eat?"
Holo's tail lazily swung back and forth, proof of her good mood. Eyes half-lidded, cheeks flushed, she could honestly say that the cobbler and wine had been the best in her life.
The cobbler been tart at first, shocking her taste buds. Then the sweetness of the crust and filling flooded her mouth. If she hadn't been sitting on her bed already, she was almost certain her legs would have given way.
The liquor, on the other hand, was sweetness personified. That, and it was strong. After the first few mouthfuls, she could feel herself start to get tipsy.
Lawrence certainly knew his way around excellent foods. It was so good, there was no way in good conscience the wolf-deity could let any of the impromptu treat go unconsumed. Thus, everything the merchant didn't eat (he had an eighth of the cobbler and a small cup of the wine), she did. Fingers had been licked clean and the bottle drained dry.
Holo let out a soft groan when everything was gone. She wanted more, damnit!
Looking over to Lawrence finishing the last of his wine, a thought entered her head. Maybe...
Suddenly, her face was within inches of his.
"Is something the matter, Ho-"
His question was cut short by an aggressive lip lock, hindering any further speech. Holo's tongue forced its way into the cavern of his mouth, licking about for any miniscule amount of flavor. She wasn't disappointed as bits of the cobbler and the taste of wine still permeated the orifice.
Surprised, Lawrence tried leaning back to escape the situation, but Holo followed him, determined to get everything available. Eventually, his head hit his mattress, with Holo's lips still connected to his own, and her lower body straddling his waist.
Truth be told, he was a little bit scared. This was his first time kissing a woman, and the excitement shook him up. That, and he didn't want the girl above him to get upset when she sobered out. Was this her first kiss, also? Barring that, why was she even kissing him in the first place? Not that it didn't feel good, but it definitely felt strange, her soft lips pressing into his own, pink tongue thrashing about wildly, massaging teeth and tissue alike...
Abruptly, the molestation of his mouth ended when the wolf pulled back, satisfied that the cavern didn't hold anymore of the treats. Looking down at the human male, who held a very big, goofy grin, she herself mischievously smiled.
This would serve as excellent teasing material for later.
Hum...maybe I should get some more practice with make-out scenes. Don't know if I really like the one I just wrote, but whatever. What's done is done.
R&R and all that good stuff.
P.S. To those of you who don't get the answer, think about it like this: If there's only two usable coins, that eliminates the dimes and pennies. Thus, you must have a quarter and a nickel. If the first coin isn't the quarter, then the other one must be.